Race Report – Shelsley 5th May 2017

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2017 

Shelsley 5th May

This first event of the 26th season of Paul’s Championship was, as usual, at Shelsley, on a very cold but nearly dry day, but this time the format of the event was very different to previous years.  Gone was the two day event with the extra practice for the first thirty sign on and elective practice order and now our competition was just the one day with practice and competition in number order.   In fact for the majority there were in the two one day meetings over the weekend and just the Midland Hillclimb championship spanned both days.   In principle this was a very good idea but whilst certainly not wanting a return to the old system there were some teething problems that gave Paul and I some headaches when trying to sort the handicaps when the ‘road’ cars practised before lunch and the ‘race’ cars after lunch and with our first timed runs being very soon after I only just made it back in time to my car after keying in and printing the handicap sheets.   The situation was made worse by a lengthy delay after a shunt at Top Ess.  I hope future events will not be so time constrained though with the very large entry that is always on the cards, aprticularly if wet.

We had three new drivers in the class – Clive Buffey in a lovely 61 and Jonathan Bibby (JJ) in an S1 Elise. Grayham Parker was now sharing his car with Graham Pattinson that we all knew well already as he frequently helped Grayham out at meetings in the past.  Tony Wallen was entered but had suffered a rather bizarre accident at Castle Combe, not on track but I think in the paddock and ended up with a broken foot!   We all hope this fixes quickly but there a hell of a lot of bones in the foot.   So whilst Tony was not there Stephen Palmer was, as his entry had been received but not processed properly, so he was not on the provisional entry list.  Andrew Lewis was back with us in the 22.   We were without Mr Bottrill for this event as he was on holiday.

A minor downside to this event was that our two classes were nowhere near each other in the Paddock.   This made keeping up with things for my part rather difficult but hopefully the main points were captured for this report.

And now on to the machinery.   Grayham had his lovely (new) yellow Elise, not too dissimilar to his first green one, maybe not as powerful but with a sequential box.  Keith Wilford had his engine rebuilt over the winter by Paul Exon and, apparently now had much more (Gidden rivalling) power and a lot more torque.  Steve had replaced the engine in the Team Millward Elan for the one he took out a year ago.  Instructions from the No 1 driver I believe.  Malcolm Thorne’s 35 was not quite ready so he was in Sarah’s 340R for this meeting.   Sarah was now again in the ex Morrison 61/69 but hopefully now in a much more sorted state.  Stephen Palmer had seen big changes made to the gearing of the 23B but the engine was not yet in the same league as Messrs Gidden and Wilford.  Dave Hampton had the 69 fitted with lower rate road springs and was getting used to that.  Chris Westwood had the ECU re-flashed at Lotus to change the valve timing and also had the car lowered a bit.

Our first practice was just before 10 and Steve Millward as a dual drive had reported the track as very slippery.  Nevertheless a few people got quite close to their PB’s and Stephen Palmer eclipsed his.  I was nowhere near as I could see the track was very green (or rather brown) and I had no wish to repeat my first practice faux pas of a few years ago.   I now adopt the approach of rather thinking I could have gone faster rather than wishing after that I hadn’t gone too fast!

We had a big delay before our second runs and many of were strapped in the car for ages.   It wasn’t all bad as it was bloody cold outside.

Most improved on that run, Keith Wilford with  new 35.04 PB for the 23B and Stephen Palmer another PB in the similar car though Steve Hopkins’ chances of improving were not helped when the throttle linkage at the pedal disintegrated.   He did have quite a slow speed over the finish – 7 mph if I recall.

As I mentioned earlier the our road class and race class 2nd practice runs were split by lunch.   And lunch was only going to be very short to try and catch up after the delays.    So Paul and I took the unusual step of just doing the handicaps for the road class during lunch.   I keyed those in and as soon as the race class were back down we did the rest and I went off to the trailer park again to finish off just getting back to the +2 as we were being called for the first timed run.

In view of the green track and the cold we set the target times generally easier than PB’s.   But with this, the car changes and new drivers it was going to be quite a bit more guesswork than usual.

We had given Steve Millward a 38.25 handicap and, obligingly, he recorded 38.25.  Graham Pattinson was making sensible steady progress under Grayham’s tutelage.  Jonathan Bibby was also going well in the fairly standard S1 Elise though not a Hillclimbing virgin by any means had not been to Shelsley before.  Geoff Stallard was not happy with his performances and said he didn’t feel safe in the car on the lower part of the hill.  An unrelated issue is that his engine is still suffering from blowing a lot of oil smoke until under way.  I hadn’t realised that this was due to some overenthusiastic porting of the nearly new (and expensive) cylinder head by his engine man resulting in a pinhole in the inlet port of No 4 cylinder.  Under closed throttle the inlet manifold depression sucked in oil through the pinhole which promptly burnt off as power was applied.   Very similar effect to having very worn inlet valve guides.   He’s not quite sure what the hell can be done about it and I can’t think of any miracle cures.   Suggestions on a postcard.

Keith Bristow was within a 1/10th of his handicap with a 33.85.  Stephen Palmer improved yet again, and like Mr Millward obliged with a 36.50 that was his handicap.   Obviously the gearing changes were doing the trick.  He swears blind that the engine still only has 127bhp!   Clive Buffey was going well now with a 41.61.   Kenny Lewis was only 0.15 outside his 33.00 handicap.  Sarah was making steady progress building up confidence in the new car.  Keith set another new PB with a 34.19 and Paul was quite pleased wit a 32..53.   In fact the commentator thought this put Paul in the lead on handicap because in my haste I had typed 33.25 as his handicap rather than 32.25.   Paul went to the timekeepers to tell them of the error and, I’m afraid, rather had the p*ss taken out of him.   Sorry Paul!

Of course the rivalry between Messrs Shute and Hampton was in full swing as usual.  However on this run Dave didn’t have too much trouble gaining the upper hand as the gear linkage on Tony’s 69F came adrift and left him in 2nd gear.   Quite how you can still do a mid 33 second run with only second gear available does seem to indicate that it is geared more for circuits. but is nonetheless remarkable.   DH set a 31.13.

So, after the first runs it was Steve Millward and Stephen Palmer jointly in first place with even par to their handicaps.  Jonathan Bibby was third and Keith Bristow fourth.

On the final run Steve Millward took a chunk of time out and the 37.30 was 0.95 under and only 0.07 away from his PB.   It would have been Graham Pattinson next in the Parker Elise but the was some electrical problem with the isolator switches or something like that and finally smelling smoke the battery was disconnected PDQ and the car withdrawn.

Malcolm Thorne set a new 340R PB with a 34.91, 0.19 under handicap.   Geoff improved to a 35.05.   Jane also improved but the 37.48 was just a smidgen behind Steve but still 0.42 under.   Ian Parmenter had been struggling with the starts all day and while this one was better and was his BTD the 38.18 was exactly one second away from his PB.   Mr Swindall however was in very good form and the 36.91 was 0.84 under.   I was pleased with the way the car was going with 86 mph into the Esses.  The only problem was the clock wasn’t quite so pleased.   Worse the 35.09 was 0.04 slower than Geoff.   As usual we are all a bit suspicious of some of the speeds.  Ian P was credited with 85 mph that even he thought unlikely.   JJ improved again (we’ll have to watch him) to an excellent 37.13 which put him 0.87 under.    Steve Hopkins, I think, was still cautious about his throttle lash up repairs and the 37.53 was his best on the day but slower than we have come to expect.   Chris W was still trying to beat the 40 seconds barrier and after the first run of 40.16 was confident.   Unfortunately the last run was a 1/10th slower.   Keith Bristow as a tad slower than his first run time as was Stephen Palmer as our first runner in the race class. followed by John Palmer also being slower.  Clive Buffey did improve however to finish on 41.38.   Kenny was a little slower this time and Sarah was also a lot slower.  Not sure what happened to her – missed gear perhaps.   Both Andrew Lewis and June were a tad slower but David Gidden, going for the consistency trophy, exactly equalled his first run time on 32.72.    Keith, Paul and Brian were all a little slower but our current Champion – Tony Shute improved to 31.35 (more gears I suspect) which was 0.40 under.   It’s tight at the top and despite Dave Hampton’s final run being slower than Tony his first run 31.13 was the best on scratch.

So the first event of the year resulted in a well deserved win for Steve Millward, with Jonathan Bibby second and Dick Swindall third.    In race scratch as already mentioned it was DH from Tony Shute with Mr Matty third.  In road scratch it was Keith Bristow from Malcolm and then Geoff.

So off to the double header at Loton on the 20th/21st May.